Effects of Trichoderma harzianum strain T22 on the arthropod community associated with tomato plants and on the crop performance in an experimental field.
Fungi belonging to the genus Trichoderma have received much attention in recent years due to their beneficial effects on crop health and their use as pest control agents. Trichoderma activates direct plant defenses against phytophagous arthropods and reinforces indirect plant defense through the attraction of predators. Although the plant defenses against insect herbivores were demonstrated in laboratory experiments, little attention has been paid to the use of Trichoderma spp. in open field conditions. In the present study, we investigated the effects of the inoculation of the commercial Trichoderma harzianum strain T22 on the arthropod community associated with tomato plants and on the crop performance in an experimental field located in South Italy. Our results showed that inoculation with T. harzianum could alter the arthropod community and reduce the abundance of specific pests under field conditions with respect to the sampling period. The present study also confirmed the beneficial effect of T. harzianum against plant pathogens and on tomato fruit. The complex tomato-arthropod-microorganism interactions that occurred in the field are discussed to enrich our current information on the possibilities of using Trichoderma as a green alternative agent in agriculture.